Taiwan and China reunited

Well, not quite but they’re certainly heading that way. The economic crisis is pushing them closer together and making what just a few years ago would have seemed like very strange bedfellows.

China offered 130 billion yuan ($19 billion) of loans for Taiwan companies operating on the mainland as the ruling parties of both governments laid out proposals to boost financial ties.

Beijing would provide the financing over three years and also purchase $2 billion worth of flat-panel displays from the island’s companies, Wang Yi, director of the Taiwan Affairs Office, said at the conclusion of a weekend forum.

The meeting between officials of Taiwan’s ruling Kuomintang and their Chinese counterparts sets a blueprint for further government-level talks after a nine-year suspension. Taiwanese businessmen have invested an estimated $150 billion in China and are clamoring for the island’s financial firms to be permitted to offer services to ease access to funding and capital.

“Cooperation at this time is especially meaningful as the global financial crisis will soon spread to the manufacturing industry,” said Schive Chi, chairman of the Taiwan Stock Exchange. “As both China and Taiwan have few foreign debts and both have high savings ratio, we should really actively use up the huge savings to help boost our economies.”

Comb through the article to see just how extensive the cooperation is, and what it will mean for Taiwan businesses that have invested huge amounts in China and are now being hit hard by the crash.

What is significant to me is the tone of the dialogue on both sides (“The consensus reflects the expectation from people from the two sides and will have an active influence over the policy- making of the governments of both sides,” said Jia Qinglin, a Chinese Communist Party Politburo member.”) You would never have read an article like this just a year or two ago. They sound like two lovers separated by a war who have just re-found one another.

Like it or not, this is one more milestone in a new era of increasing cooperation and mutual dependency, and it’s only going to intensify. Will they reunite and live happily ever after as one? Not anytime soon, and maybe never. But it’s a stake in the heart of the Taiwan independence movement, for better or for worse. Whether independence is a noble goal or not is irrelevant. All that matters is reality, and the reality is that Taiwan and the PRC are moving closer together, and that will carry enough advantages for all sides to keep independence off the table.

Staying in touch with many of my friends in Taiwan, I know that only one thing matters right now, and that is the economy and the jobs that come with it. If they see this as step toward economic improvement, the enthusiasm over the independence movement, which has already sagged dramatically, is dead in the water. A pity perhaps, but there we are.

They might keep up the old arguments about which pinyin to use and how Taiwan should be referred to by Google Earth, etc., but if the Taiwanese and the Chinese see the relationship as economically mutually beneficial, they’ll happily go along. There’s a reason regular direct flights between Shanghai and Taipei started a few weeks ago. Tough times call for pragmatism. And times haven’t been this tough for Taiwan for decades.

This is just the start. Once we begin to emerge from the crisis in four or five years, expect to see a whole new world order of alliances and agreements, and a whole new balance of power. Yes, America will still be up there at the tippy top, but it won’t be there alone and it won’t carry the weight it did from the end of WWII to 2001.

The Discussion: 63 Comments


China can simply move more back and have them operational within days if needed.

As I said, it could decommission them or not replace the older ones and/or introduce new models.

The point is, the U.S has thousands of nuclear ICBMs pointed at China, yet China still has a pragmatic approach to relations with America.

First, they can be used against anyone due to their range – China is merely a possible target. Second, China has its own nuclear arsenal so feels quite safe. Third, the US doesn’t have a territorial claim over China, has not ruled out Chinese independence and does not threaten war if China were to refuse unification indefinitely.

As for Taiwan, China’s short-ranged arsenal is of about zero use against any of its other neighbours. They can’t reach mainland Japan, for example (most can’t even hit Okinawa). So looking at their range and possible targets it’s all about intimidating Taiwan.

CSB and the other DPP that you admire get too caught up on “gestures”.

Actually many Taiwanese other than those who are DPP members don’t like the Chinese missiles.

It’s not like either side will ever use them.

Does Taiwan have thousands of missiles read to strike against China? No. So why wouldn’t China use the short-ranged missiles against Taiwan? If it thought it would be in its best interests, of course it would. Why else does it build them?

December 26, 2008 @ 8:22 pm | Comment

I think this is kind of like the censorship issue in China – the ones who get most bent out of shape about it are always people who don’t live in China. Most Taiwanese do not keep these missiles top of mind, the same way none of us who lived portions of our lives during the Cold War thought much or often about missiles pointed at us or the many weapons of the Soviet arsenal capable of destroying us many times over. Most of us have more important things to worry about, like working and taking care of family and handling life’s daily challenges. Again, I lived in Taiwan and can safely say I only heard the topic of the missiles discussed by Americans living there, never by the Taiwanese. It makes a great topic to get indignant about, but it doesn’t mean anything more than the missiles in the Cold War. Everyone knows it is not in China’s interest to deploy them (China certainly knows this most of all), and now that the two sides are “reuniting” anyway it makes them even more silly a topic for hysteria.

The missiles suck. China’s attitude toward Taiwan is kooky. But the threats, the grandstanding and the tough talk are typical of Chinese negotiators (you should have been there for the negotiations with my landlord) and no one takes seriously the notion that China would nuke Taiwan. Except, of course, either people who don’t live in Taiwan, or foreigners who go there and try to project their own vision of how governments should operate on their host nation.

So why wouldn’t China use the short-ranged missiles against Taiwan? If it thought it would be in its best interests, of course it would. Why else does it build them?

The point of building most missiles and nuclear weapons is not to use them – except for leverage. Period. Why would America invest hundreds of billions in its nuclear arsenal if it doesn’t intend to use it? Well, because it’s a statement of power and gives the government leverage and gives potential enemies pause.

December 26, 2008 @ 9:10 pm | Comment

Again, I lived in Taiwan and can safely say I only heard the topic of the missiles discussed by Americans living there, never by the Taiwanese.

I may not have lived in Taiwan, but it has come up in discussions I have had with Taiwanese. While unification is not the “hot topic” in Taiwan, the matter of the missiles will rarely rise to the top of any conversation. If or when unification is something that China starts demanding from Taiwan, or the Taiwanese government starts pushing, the matter of the missiles will rise up the agenda quite quickly. But even if it doesn’t, that they are there will make it far less likely that Taiwanese will want more than better economic ties with China. China can’t have its cake and eat it.

no one takes seriously the notion that China would nuke Taiwan

Richard, I do not believe that I mentioned Chinese nuclear weapons being used against Taiwan though you may be talking generally. Perhaps you are confusing ICBMs with the short-ranged missiles China has commissioned for possible use against Taiwan.

Yes, sometimes missiles are used for leverage, but because the missiles positioned opposite the island are conventional they can be used a lot more readily than their nuclear equivalents. Nuclear weapons are (currently) only used for leverage because their use could easily invite a response that would devastate the nation that used them. But conventional weaponry is used all the time across the world, so if China believes that military confrontation is necessary or inevitable it may well use them.

December 27, 2008 @ 1:17 am | Comment

“Let’s see now how it will resonate with the populace…”


Great, now we know… Thank you Internet!

December 27, 2008 @ 4:07 am | Comment

Yeah, as a Chinese, we’re quite happy to see that. What’s more, two mainland pandas “tuantuan” and “yuanyuan” have been taken to Taipei Zoo, as a symbolic of reunification. It’s undeniable that Taiwan is the essential part of China. The unitification of the mainland and Taiwan will be realized in the near future. It’s not the economic reason that we go together, but the history, the brother-tie between Taiwanese and the mainland people,and the country interest.
In 2008, China experienced a lot,and everything does grabs our heart. Suffering and solving the 512 Sichuan earthquake, holding the Beijing Olmpic Games, successfully sending “Shenzhou7” to space, all these demonstrate China’s growth, development and great power. We are very proud of our country, so are Twawanese. We’re in the shouders of the great Chinese nation, who will try her best to make her children grow healthily and happily!!!

December 28, 2008 @ 10:52 pm | Comment


December 28, 2008 @ 11:13 pm | Comment

Bao, we need to be cautious with data like those. What does it mean that so many Taiwanese see the Chinese of the PRC as “hostile”? Does it mean they believe they should stop trading and cooperating with them, that they should uproot the Taiwanese factories that dominate much of Guandong and leave? Does it mean that, as in the US, the Taiwanese still regard China as a potential enemy it must nevertheless go out of its way to court and cooperate with, knowing that much of its destiny is tied to theirs? (It’s just as true for us as it is to Taiwan at the moment.) There’s always been distrust among allies, and I’m afraid right now we all have to hope we indeed are allies, as we’re all, to some extent, in this together.

I can just hear the most militant of the Taiwanese greens saying, “The economic crisis is a disease of the skin. The threat of ‘Red China’ is a disease of the heart.”

December 28, 2008 @ 11:23 pm | Comment

I doubt very much that economic closeness will convince Taiwanese to accept Chinese rule; quite the opposite. It is more likely that the current KMT administration, in which Ma is simply more or less the puppet of the Old Guard, will bring Taiwan into the China fold by silencing all those who object. Apparently China is also working to silence critics and Taiwan supporters in the US as well. Gonna be a rough few years. Fortunately, though moving faster than I dreamed, the KMT is also far more incompetent than I dreamed…..

The problem, from point of view of getting Taiwan to accept annexation, is that China will not give on any of the Taiwan questions. Just yesterday came article on a shipper with 10 flag of convenience ships who had been happily shipping building rock from China to Taiwan via third port. Now wants to ship direct but has discovered that China is only permitting — you guessed it — Chinese ships. Just as it permits Chinese tourists to Taiwan only to fly Chinese airlines, and at present limits 13 provinces to supply tourists (plans to raise this). Every Taiwanese knows that China’s promises are lies. Who would willingly join such a regime?

The Taiwanese are not “accepting the inevitable” or whatever cynicism is passing for wisdom these days among the business classes in Taipei. There’s quite a bit of resistance in the Taiwanese soul. I’m wondering whether it will wake in time, though.

Taiwan was part of China right up until the late 19th century when Japan stole it off China.

Taiwan has in fact being recognized by most Western governments as a legitimate part of China.

The United States recognized a government seated in Taiwan, calling itself ‘Republic of China’ right up until 1978. This ROC government claimed not just sovereignty over Taiwan province but ALL of mainland China as well. In fact the US insisted in 1971 that it was the government in Taiwan that should represent ALL of China in the UN- not the PRC government.

Liu, the official policy of the US government is that the status of Taiwan is undetermined, and has been since 1951. In 2007, when Chen wrote the letter to the UN, and Ban Ki-moon said Taiwan was part of China, the US and several other countries protested, “secretly”, that the status of Taiwan is undetermined.


December 29, 2008 @ 7:02 am | Comment

Having living in taiwan for 13 years I agree that for most taiwanese the missile things is not an everyday issue… but it is there as a “subconscious” issue. One of my best taiwanese friends shared with me… Should I love a mother that beats me again and again? I was quite surprised… he is 32… old enough not to be beaten up… after showing my surprise… then he said, well, you know, that is what I have been taught since I was a kid, that China is our mother… but how can I love a mother that is beating and menacing me everyday, that do not let me relate with other people and lies to me continuously (SARS, Avian flu…)?… His generation 30-40 is a schizophrenic divided one between the “we are China” education and the reality of China’s treatment (they studied all the rivers and provinces of China, while unaware of Taiwan’s rivers and mountains, or the capital of the Republic of China as nanjing -year 1996 text books- and parents telling their kids… what are you saying?). The people 20-30 is more like… Me chinese? No way, I am taiwanese. My grandpa came from China, China is an interesting place, though quite weird sometimes, but I am taiwanese. Less than 20… not sure, I left 2 years ago (go back every year twice, though), but probably in the same direction. They feel that their future is tied to China (as Germany’s future, or Poland, Spain Italy… is tied to the EU) but that does not mean (at least now) that they wish, seek, hope, expect, long… to be one country. For most of Taiwanese people do not feel it like north and south Korea, or east-west Germany. Nevertheless… education can work miracles, and at the same time, independence of thought and sources is quite developed in Taiwan… it will be difficult for the KMT to re-sinicize Taiwan as they did from 1951 to 1970. Many grass root movements (not only political ones) are pro-taiwanese, and by this I mean having Taiwan as center, in the heart, not necessarily meaning independence, just “taiwan-rooting”.

January 1, 2009 @ 2:18 am | Comment

2009! Happy merry fucking new year, all of you out there!

Enjoy it! While it last!

January 1, 2009 @ 4:00 am | Comment

To Bao, thanks, same for you!

January 1, 2009 @ 11:06 am | Comment

“The economic crisis is a disease of the skin. The threat of ‘Red China’ is a disease of the heart.”

Haha, and deep Green lunacy is a disease of the brain.

As I said, it could decommission them or not replace the older ones and/or introduce new models.

China can’t dismantle all of their SRBMs. It’s a preposterous demand. China, like all other nations, will probably have weapons. Their position is insignificant in a discussion of geopolitical “spacetime”, especially now. It’s largely symbolic.

Third, the US doesn’t have a territorial claim over China

They had no territorial claim to Iraq. Or any of their own land for that matter, but I won’t get into that.

Actually many Taiwanese other than those who are DPP members don’t like the Chinese missiles.

None of the ones in my family seem to care, but then again we aren’t easily scared.

So why wouldn’t China use the short-ranged missiles against Taiwan?

Because the Taiwanese military is at least capable of doing significant damage to coastal cities in China. Nothing would be gained. I can see it if petro-.. er, WMD, were involved, but the risk/reward is too great.

January 2, 2009 @ 1:37 pm | Comment

Aside from rhetoric, the ROC is “gaining” more than the PRC right now. It is simply dumb to avoid profiting from China’s economy. Taiwan needs money for defense and energy, to name a few. They aren’t exactly jumping into China’s arms.

January 8, 2010 @ 10:29 am | Comment

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